What can I say! All weekends are not equal and this one stands out like Johnny Holmes’ cock at a naked pygmy convention, Fuck me it was a riot! I apologise for the profanity below but it was that kind of day .. 😀
The plan was that I meet Stevie Sanders, one of the UKs top divers and JJ-Ccr instructor to sit my crossover course in the Wastwater, over in Wasdale my favorite part of the Lake district. I was to arrive late Sunday morning as Stevie was just finishing off a Mod3 with a couple of champions of the North sea, AlanP and DaveC. Stevie had agreed to fit my training in straight after to help get me going quickly on my new rebreather. I packed the car and headed off early Sunday morning. The forecast was shite! Heavy winds and rain, if it was the North sea I would have stayed in my bed but the Wastwater is dive-able in all but the worst conditions so all was good.
I arrived on time and Stevie and Alan were chilling sheltered in Stevies Van. After Alan had his course debrief we headed to the Wasdale Head Inn for lunch, a cracking place famed for its climbing history and still a popular outdoor destination with all the climbing and walking on the mountains that rise steeply from the basin.
I love Wasdale! It is a valley full of legendary tales of mountain exploits helped by the fact that legends like Joss Naylor farmed there and UKs top climber Dave Birkett, a cracking guy with whom I was lucky enough to boulder with up here in Northumberland also haling . Over the years I have spent a lot of quality time climbing there. With the Great Gable and Scaffel massif offering amazing mountain adventures I was drawn like a moth to a flame. There seemed like nothing better than ascending the amazing airy climbing routes up on these high mountains in my early years of climbing. More routes thn I now can remember but I wont ever forget ascents upo the Tophet wall,definitely a favorite and a couple of 3 star VS crack climbs that saw me solo them one night in semi darkness. Good times 🙂
The famous Napes Needle up on the flanks of Great Gable, home of probably the first ever recorded rock climb and steeped in history saw me visit regularly over the years with various climbers who when wanting to top out on it invited me to help. Napes Needle and the Inaccessible Pinnacle are probably the routes I have repeated most over the years because of this and I have always enjoyed a visit to both and the look on my climbing partners face when they summit …Good times 😀
Anyways back to story ! Driving along the single track road towards the Inn my car started to buzz, a puncture … FUCK. I jumped out and sure thing a VERY flat tyre! I couldn’t think of a worse place to change it so I drove further along the road to find a passing place. My car was full to the roof with diving kit so I emptied it all out on the road. I knew I didn’t have a spare tyre, why they don’t put them in cars these days blows my brains !! Even my last Landrover didn’t have one ! a fucking LandRover! But there was definitely a latex repair kit with pump, that should do I thought.
I lifted the boot floor and reached for what I thought was my puncture repair kit and after unscrewing the securing bolt I tried to pull it out, it was on a wire, WTF ? I examined it closely and tried to unscrew the top, it appeared to be glued! double WTF! I headed for the glove compartment and reached for the cars manual , I still couldn’t find anything … until I saw a picture of a big black round sub-woofer while flicking through the pages, it was a fucking sub-woofer ! a bloody great big speaker right where my Landrover had its puncture repair kit, lulling me into thinking it was the same thing when I saw it. I was quickly realising that I didn’t have a hope in hell.
Alan,Stevie and I looked at each other .. fuck I wouldd need to phone a rescue service , no service !! this is just getting worse .. We would need to leave the car and head for the pub at least we could get WIFI and see what we could do from there. We abandoned my car in the passing place , sorry about that! And jumped into Steve’s van before heading to The Wasdale Head Inn.
On arrival at the bar there was a sign that said “No WiFi ! talk to each other” FFS! come on God give me a break here!! I asked the lady at the bar for change of a pound , I was going old skool and using a phone box and directory inquiries, luckily I have a few years under my belt and can remember these things 😀
Then the strangest of happenings !! A guy was looking at me, a friendly wide eyed and smiley looking fella , I said Hi , he said Hi and started chatting, telling me he was from Somerset and was headed up to Moffat to start organic gardening with a friend who just bought a small holding, cool I thought. He then asked me if I liked a smoke, as in a bit of green. I laughed and said today I could do with a mile long joint and started to explain my situation … I can help he said , my camper van has a latex kit I will give it to you .. then he fires in with but I’ve just dropped a couple of acid tabs and will need the trip to settle down a bit before I can ride my bike ..ah man this day just keeps on going ! I bought him a pint and he joined Steve , Alan and I .. he was hammered , what a fella 😀
We ate dinner and eventually he disappeared off to find his bike so he could cycle to the van and back … his van was a couple of miles away up at the Wasdale camp site. This day just keeps on rolling !! a hippy on beer, smoking green and dropping a couple of acid riding a bike trying to find a camp site in the thumping rain and then come back with a puncture repair kit .. FFS! what could go wrong !! 😀 Steve was laughing , no chance hes coming back !!
We all agreed and I started looking to plan B. Alan was trying to contact his Green Flag recovery to help when in walks the hippy, puncture repair kit in a huge rucksack and a whopping great smile on his face.. WOW! what a man ! not to look a gift horse in the mouth we jumped in Stevie’s van and headed to the car still buckled by the road side. I tried to pay the hippy, he wouldn’t take it but I insisted. He gave us the kit and I connected it to the tyre, Zmmmmmpop …the pump kicked into life and the tyre looked like it was inflating 🙂 happy days !
Alan took his leave at this point and we thanked him for his help. Now when a helpful fellow like Alan disappears sharpish you should know things have been tough and just as he shot off into the distance BOOM!! the latex barrel exploded, covering Steve and myself in the green goo !! The tyre valve had become blocked because the latex was so old it had congealed, causing the pressure to build up in the latex barrel and not escape to the tyre! MAN!! MAN!! FFS! … we are all looking at each other, speechless, this was hilarious but shit at the same time !
The trippy hippy had his mind blown, looking on in quizzical disbelief. We were laughing but had our heads in our hands at the same time. OK plan B! I will have to drive slowly out of Wasdale to my digs, before getting the car on bricks and taking the wheel to a garage in Egremont first thing Monday morning, loads of hassle but our only option. We took the hippy back to the Inn and said our goodbyes, what an amazing guy ! Generous , friendly and super-wasted!! Legend!
Ok! plan B activated….. I drove very slowly to the digs with Stevie tailing me in his van. We stripped the now fucked tyre and wheel in readiness for the morning. It was pure magic to be finally sitting our arses down with a cup of tea .. Can we get on with the course now must have been resonating round Stevie’s head 😀 among other things like ****##@** !!
A crossover course is to teach an existing rebreather diver to dive safely on a different unit. Rebreathers are relatively complicated and each unit has its own unique “personality” which requires skilled instruction to safely use. I chose to move from my existing AP unit to the JJ-Ccr mainly because there are no bells and whistles, just simplistic design with a bombproof build and was very happy that one of the top divers/instructor in the North Sea had agreed to train me on it. Stevie is quite a character and soon I would discover I was about to learn more than just diving 😀
The course included a full strip down and rebuild of every single part of the JJ-Ccr unit to ensure my understanding and ability to maintain it. Rebreathers are life support equipment and under no condition should you dive one you are not happy about and to confidently do this you should understand it fully right down to the last nut and bolt. I enjoyed this and Stevie’s instruction was clear and methodical and over the course of a few hours we took apart, maintained and rebuilt my unit taking notes and photos on the way so I wouldn’t forget. I have a huge respect for rebreather diving and the discipline it takes to do it safely. Maintaining the unit is a huge part of this and I endeavor to learn my trade and do it well. The week after the course I repeated this strip down several times while it was fresh in my head, took more notes and hopefully I continue to maintain it perfectly. Finally the theory part was finished and we headed out to eat. The western lakes is a cracking spot but pubs dont like to serve after 8:30 apparently! Eventually we sorted out some grub and Stevie introduced me to a coffee thing mixed with I think Tia Maria ? in it, certainly helped me get a sound sleep before the skill dives the next day.
Up early on Monday morning and off to Jubilee Motors in Egremont with my wheel, I could not recommend them enough, they really helped and gave me a bunch of schrader valves to boot.. It needed a new tyre which wouldn’t arrive until 1pm so we would have to return later. We dropped it off to be fixed and grabbed a breakfast before heading to the lake. I was very grateful to Stevie for all the running round, he was definitely getting more from this course than he bargained for, but so did I mind …. probably a life time of abuse 😀 😀
We headed back to Wastwater and kitted up. During the dive Stevie would grill me on the various rebreather skills using the new unit. The JJ-ccr was a breeze to operate and hopefully Id be able to replicate my skills on this new unit. It was my first dive in Wastwater and I was looking forward to it. It was a breezy day up top but once we were under it was peaceful and clear. Stevie grilled me as our dive progresses and we slowly worked my way through all the skills. The dive was good, a nice banked descent then a line across to a large pinnacle of rock that disappeared down into the darkness in crystal clear water.
A surface break and soon we were back underneath the lake and more skills practice ensued. All too soon though again it was time to surface and debrief. Stevie during the course was clear, concise and patient, a good instructor although last time I asked him a question he called me a thick cunt but you have to take the good with the bad 😀 😀 He is solid , I look forward to my next course with him 😉 Time to pack and head for the wheel !!
After picking up the now repaired wheel from the garage at Egremont we headed back to my car and put it back on, a quick coffee with Steve and I hit the road …. more hair to cut 😉
Many thanks to everyone that helped on that trip, from hippies to dive pirates and garage mechanics .. I arrived home certified to dive a JJ and in one piece ………. happy days 🙂
I tell you mate you need to write a book ??
?? cheers Al ?
Hahaha! Brilliant read as always Mark! Hilarious!! Think I need to visit the Wasdale Pub!!
ha aye .. a wee re-visit to Napes Needle to work up our appetites ????